Wildflower woods


May brings our many species of colorful, native wildflowers into full glory. In woodlands, wooded parks and rural wood lots throughout the state, carpets of beautiful spring flowers are now in bloom.

For many of us, the spring days of our youth were filled with times spent exploring forest paths, ravines and streams, enchanted by the beauty of wildflowers in bloom.

For me, they still are.

The last stand

Landowners who maintain a portion of their property as forested woodlot are often rewarded with these precious and short-lived woodland gems. In fact, rural woodlots are the last stand for many spring wildflower species.

Development of subdivisions and businesses in our rural landscape decimates precious habitat for these native wildflower beauties. Fragmentation of these woodland patches creates the perfect scenario for the invasion of plants such as buckthorn, garlic mustard and canary reed grass. All of these plants are capable of wiping out entire colonies of native wildflowers.

Spring stars

Dozens of species of woodland wildflowers burst into colorful bloom with the coming of May. Many of our favorite plants of the year are now in bloom. Trilliums, mayapples, trout lilies, bloodroot, Virginia bluebells and more.

These spring beauties bloom just before the forest canopy leafs out overhead, taking advantage of early spring sunshine that reaches the forest floor before the canopy shades the understory for the rest of the season.

There are spring wildflowers that bloom in just about every habitat. In open deciduous forest, look for trout lilies in white and yellow, trillium, mayapple, wild geranium, bloodroot, Virginia bluebells and others. In wetter areas and roadside ditches, you may find marsh marigolds, skunk cabbage, starflower, sweet white violet, jack in the pulpit and more.

Wild columbine blooms in beautiful red and yellow, its bell shaped blossoms attracting hummingbirds to its sweet nectar. Dutchmans breeches, our wild bleeding heart, blooms in a wand of dancing white and yellow blossoms, over a carpet of delicate, fernlike, lacy foliage.

The trilliums are a traditional favorite among many who wander the spring woodlands. Their elegant, snow white blooms may blanket the forest floor where colonies have been undisturbed.

There are even early spring wildflowers that bloom in our prairies and grasslands, enchanting those who discover them. Pasqueflower blooms in silvery, pale blue. Prairie smoke blooms in unusual maroon, pink and fuchsia. Hoary puccoon blooms in gleaming yellow orange.

Each of our native spring wildflowers is unique in bloom and lore. Many native wildflowers have traditional uses, as well as medicinal qualities. Learning about the colorful historical uses and names of some of these plants is an amazing adventure.

Find Rob Zimmer online at www.robzimmeroutdoors.com. On Facebook at www.facebook.com/RobZimmerOutdoors. Listen to Outdoors with Rob Zimmer, Saturdays, 7 to 8 AM, on WHBY.